Why should you be using sulfate-free shampoo

posted 04.10.2019

Hair care companies love to advertise what types of harmful ingredients their products are free of. In the same way the food industry advertises produce as being free from GMO’s or pesticides, beauty companies love to advertise that their products are free from things like parabens or sulfates. Sulfate-free shampoo is just one of these mega-popular label buzzwords, but what does it mean to be sulfate-free, and is it actually beneficial for your shampoo to be free from these ingredients?


Let’s start by describing what sulfates actually are, that way you can get a better understanding of why your hair shouldn’t be exposed to them. In a general sense, sulfates are what hair care companies put in shampoo to make the product sudsy. Sulfates are what attracts things like dirt, grime, and dead skin cells into the soap from your hair to then be washed away. They also cause your shampoo to become foamy when worked into the hair and scalp and exposed to water. Sulfates can make your shampoo feel foamy and luxurious, but they’ve also got some negative side effects.

While sulfates can help clean the hair and make your shampooing experience feel more luxurious, they can also aid in causing irreversible damage. When stylists warn that shampooing your hair removes the natural oils that keep your hair healthy, it’s usually because of things like sulfates. In addition to stripping your hair of its natural oils, sulfates can also cause some minor discomfort in the form of redness, itching or dry skin.

Some reports have claimed that sulfates can lead to cancer, but a lack of scientific evidence to support those claims show that they’re false. Sulfates can, however, contribute to irritation in the scalp—particularly if you’re prone to dry skin. Choosing a sulfate-free shampoo may be a good choice if you find that shampoo with sulfates in it is making your scalp feel more irritated, itchy, or dry. It may also be a good choice if you wash your hair often, as your hair will need its natural oils to stay healthy in between washes.


All of the above isn’t to say that there’s no time or place for shampoo that does contain sulfates, though. A sulfate, also called a surfactant, is designed to capture dirt, water, and oil within its molecular structure. The very nature of shampoo is to clean your hair, and sulfates were added to the products to help shampoo do a better job of doing just that.  

If you generally have healthy hair but find that it becomes greasy easily, a sulfate shampoo will only help your hair feel cleaner, longer. Diminishing the impact of sulfates on the hair is easy with regular trims, using a conditioner every time you wash your hair, and making sure you only wash your hair every other day at most.

All shampoos, even sulfate-free shampoos, are designed to strip the hair of its natural oils. Regular conditioning will help combat that, leaving your hair feeling healthier and stronger. Those with color treated hair and sensitive skin may find that sulfate-free shampoo is the best option, though, as sulfates are known to strip color treatments from the hair as well as contributing to skin irritation.






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